- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pharmacy records and writings initially - but wrongly - helped lead the FBI to Army scientist Steven J. Hatfill in the 2001 anthrax attacks, Justice Department documents released Tuesday show.

Responding to a judge’s order, the government released 78 pages of affidavits and search warrants in the now-closed case of Mr. Hatfill, who was cleared of the attacks earlier this year. The documents raise questions about Mr. Hatfill, but provide no evidence that he masterminded the biological attacks that killed five people, sickened 17 and frightened a nation still shaken by the deaths of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks only a few weeks earlier.

Ultimately, the government focused on another Army scientist — Bruce Ivins, who killed himself in July as prosecutors prepared to charge him in the case. Mr. Ivins and Mr. Hatfill both worked at the Army’s infectious-diseases laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md.

Mr. Hatfill was never charged, and the Justice Department in June agreed to pay him $5.8 million to settle a lawsuit he brought against the government for wrongly implicating him.

The documents released Tuesday build a case against Mr. Hatfill on largely circumstantial evidence.

An FBI affidavit cites interviews and a never-published book by Mr. Hatfill to show he knew how to treat anthrax infections and how easy it would be for terrorists to acquire, produce and use the toxin with “deadly consequences.”

In a March 2002 interview with the FBI, Mr. Hatfill denied taking the antibiotic Cipro in the weeks before and after the attacks.

But an affidavit released in the documents cites pharmacy records showing him filling Cipro prescriptions twice during that time period. Mr. Hatfill also had Cipro prescriptions filled in January, July and November of 2001, according to the affidavit.

At the time, Cipro was the only antibiotic recommended by the Food and Drug Administration to treat anthrax infection.

After the anthrax attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft called Mr. Hatfill “a person of interest” in the investigation. The Army scientist maintained his innocence from the start.

Hatfill attorney Tom Connolly said there is nothing in the documents showing Mr. Hatfill had anything to do with the attacks.

He added: “It will be unfortunate for all involved if the release of these documents misleads anyone into thinking otherwise.”

The documents were released following last week’s order by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times had filed a lawsuit demanding that the FBI materials on Mr. Hatfill be released. The newspapers contended that the public has a right to know why investigators wanted to search Mr. Hatfill’s home and on what basis the courts agreed to allow those searches.

— AP writer Ted Bridis contributed to this report.

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